Holy flying ratings! Monty Python comedy secures half a million viewers for BBC4

The Life of Brian controversy reimagined attracts a good crowd

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534,000 people tuned in to see Holy Flying Circus last night on BBC4, 2.4 per cent of all viewers watching television between 9pm and 10:30pm, according to overnight figures.

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The quirky comedy drama, which focused on the controversy surrounding the 1979 film Monty Python’s Life of Brian, also attracted a good deal of attention on Twitter during its broadcast – with both #flyingcircus and “Monty Python” trending throughout the evening.  

Despite delivering ratings far above average for the time-slot, Holy Flying Circus failed to reach the dizzy heights of some of BBC4’s other dramas in the past few years – notably Hattie, a biopic of Hattie Jacques, which smashed records with 1.6 million viewers (a 7.1 per cent share) in January 2011. 

The Python programme produced a narrow win for BBC4 over its digital cousin, BBC3, which drew 453,000 viewers (a 2.6 per cent share) for horror drama The Fades between 9pm and 10pm.

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Elsewhere, ITV’s digital ratings behemoth The Only Way Is Essex continued to prosper in series three, pulling in a very respectable 938,000 viewers (4.9 per cent share) for ITV2.  Nearly 200,000 eager Essex fans also watched an hour later on ITV2+1.